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Friday, February 22, 2008

This is the end...

I started this blog just over a year ago and have enjoyed every minute of covering the greatest conference in the World, the Big Ten. I am both saddened and excited to tell you, my loyal readers, that the Big Ten Chronicle will be no more. I have been offered a spot as a writer for the website Hawkeye Sports News. This is an offer that I have accepted. Now I will have the chance to focus on my home state Iowa Hawkeyes and help provide Iowa fans a place to get all the latest news and analysis for their team. Thank you to everyone who visited The Chronicle over the year and please check out my new home at Hawkeye Sports News.

Also, for fans of the "other" 10 teams, please don't be afraid to keep in touch. I can always be reached via email here. Thanks again and On Iowa....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Indiana-Purdue postgame analysis

The Purdue Boilermakers took their 11-game win streak across the state last night when they faced off against Indiana. The Hoosiers certainly ended any speculation about whether or not the NCAA violations that are hanging over their coach’s head would be any major distraction to the players with a 77-68 victory over the Big Ten leading Boilers. The win moved Indiana into a virtual tie with Purdue atop the conference standings.

The Hoosiers did succeed at playing the game at their pace, a game in which Indiana had 73 possessions compared to 74 for Purdue (the most in a single game for the Boilers since their win over Ohio State on Jan 12th that started their 11-game win streak). Indiana’s offense was much more efficient than Purdue’s despite an alarmingly high number of turnovers. The Hoosiers scored 1.05 points per possession and held Purdue to only 0.92 points per possession on the evening. This is especially remarkable when you take into account the fact that Indiana had a total of 23 turnovers for the game. Which means the Hoosiers turned it over on 31.5% of their possessions yet still managed to average over a point per possession, thanks in large part to their massive advantage at the free throw stripe. Indiana shot 30 of 34 on their free throws while Purdue was a feeble 11 for 21 (52%).

Hoosier freshman Eric Gordon benefited most from the charity stripe as he alone made more free throws than Purdue’s entire team. Gordon finished 13-15 from the line and with 22 points overall on only 4 of 12 shooting from the floor. Indiana was led once again by the inside force that is D.J. White. White finished with yet another double-double, scoring 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting and pulling down a game-high 15 rebounds. D.J., playing with his left knee wrapped, has almost certainly locked up Big Ten Player of the Year honors, and as Steve Lavin pointed out last night, should start to be seriously considered for the nation’s Player of the Year award.

In the loss, Purdue was led in scoring again by freshman Robbie Hummel, who finished the game with 17 points on 7 of 12 shooting (3-6 from three-point land). As a team the Boilermakers shot just 24% (7-29) from three compared to Indiana’s 64% (7-11) from beyond the arc. IU’s Armon Bassett had his best shooting night of the season, missing just one shot on the night and hitting on all four of his three-pointers taken. Bassett finished the game with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists but did turn the ball over 5 times.

Purdue now has over a week off to prepare for their next game against Minnesota next Wednesday. Despite the loss, the Boiler’s remaining schedule puts them in pretty good shape with back-to-back home games against Minnesota and Northwestern, before finishing the season on the road at Ohio State and Michigan.

Indiana’s next game is at Northwestern on Saturday, a day after the University’s 7-day investigation period comes to an end and a recommendation on Kelvin Sampson’s future is expected to be made on Friday. All eyes and ears will be tuned into Bloomington to hear the decision which will decide Sampson’s fate before the Hoosier’s next game.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

BTC Power Rankings - Week VII

1. Purdue Boilermakers 21-5 (12-1) (Previous #1)
This week: 2/19-at Indiana
Eleven straight wins have the Boilers on top of the Big Ten and atop the Power Rankings for a second straight week. The rest of the nation has finally started to take notice of what Purdue has been able to do in Big Ten play thanks in large part to their nationally televised win over Michigan State on Tuesday. The Boilermakers continue to improve defensively, led by stopper Chris Kramer, and in conference games are holding opponents to just 0.93 points per possession. Next up is another huge ESPN-televised game on Tuesday at in-state rival Indiana.

2. Indiana Hoosiers 21-4 (10-2) (Previous #2)
This week: 2/19-vs Purdue, 2/23-at Northwestern
The Hoosiers were handed the NCAA's report of five major violations committed by coach Kelvin Sampson and his assistants on Wednesday, then hit the court and dropped a heart-breaker to Wisconsin thanks to Brian Butch's bank-shoot three-pointer. Then on Saturday, Indiana bounced back to defeat Michigan State by 19 without D.J. White in the second half, who left the game with a knee injury. White says he'll be fine, but the Indiana basketball program certainly is not. Sampson's job status is day-to-day as IU takes seven days to sort through the mess and ultimately decide their coach's fate for the remainder of the season. In my opinion, Sampson has to be fired. Indiana knew they were hiring Coach Sampson and his past allegations, but after warnings from the NCAA and his school, Sampson committed the same violations. The only problem then is who is named interim coach for the remainder of the season? First-year assistant Dan Dikich is the only coach on the staff not named in the NCAA's report and appears to be the safe option. It looks as though Sampson will be coaching the Hoosiers again on Tuesday when conference leading Purdue comes to town, but he could and should be long gone by next weekend.

3. Wisconsin Badgers 21-4 (11-2) (Previous #3)
This week: 2/20-at Illinois, 2/24-at Ohio State
Wisconsin banked into a win at Indiana on Tuesday and then took care of business against Minnesota over the weekend. The Badgers are 11-0 in conference against teams not-named Purdue and have a very tough week ahead of them on the road. Illinois and Ohio State, while down this year, are still very formidable foes and especially in their places. If Wisconsin can come away with two wins this week, they will be in very good shape for the regular season conference title.

4. Michigan State Spartans 20-5 (8-4) (Previous #4)
This week: 2/20-vs Penn State, 2/23-vs Iowa
Once again the Spartans can stake claim to the Big Ten team doing the least with the most amount of talent. Back-to-back losses at Purdue and Indiana are nothing to be ashamed of, but MSU needed to at least split in their road trip to the state of Indiana last week if they wanted to keep any hope alive for the regular season crown. Surprisingly, the Spartan offense is only averaging 0.99 points per possession in conference games and continue to be haunted by turnovers. Obviously, Michigan State will still be a tournament team, but we are currently looking at three straight disappointing seasons for Coach Izzo's squad.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes 17-9 (8-5) (Previous #5)
This week: 2/24-vs Wisconsin
After a loss on Sunday at Michigan, the Buckeyes are starting to slide back on the bubble. Ohio State needs to find a way to win away from home if they want to secure an NCAA bid before the Big Ten Tournament. OSU is now 8-5 in conference play and have a very tough remaining schedule. Their next two games are against Wisconsin and at Indiana.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers 15-9 (5-7) (Previous #6)
This week: 2/21-vs Michigan, 2/24-vs Penn State
The Gophers have certainly played themselves out of any NCAA Tournament talk after a 0-2 week. The 24-point home loss to Illinois on Tuesday may have single-handily put a stop to Tubby Smith's career NCAA Tournament streak. The good news is this week Minnesota can get back to .500 with home wins over Michigan and Penn State. Of course that is easier said then done especially for a team that has yet to beat anyone in the RPI Top-100 this season.

7. Illinois Fighting Illini 11-15 (3-10) (Previous #8)
This week: 2/20-vs Wisconsin, 2/24-at Michigan
Illinois has to be the best 11-15 team in the nation. In Big Ten play, the Illini are averaging exactly 1.00 point per possession and surrendering 0.99 points per possession on the defensive end. The Badgers had better not overlook Illinois this Wednesday as Assembly Hall is still a very difficult place to play, just ask Indiana.

8. Michigan Wolverines 8-17 (4-9) (Previous #9)
This week: 2/21-at Minnesota, 2/24-vs Illinois
Has Michigan finally figured out Coach Beilein's offense? The Wolverines have won three-straight games including a 80-70 win over Ohio State on Sunday. Michigan has a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way to improve their seed in the Big Ten Tournament and nobody is going to want to face a hot-shooting Wolverine team that weekend.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions 12-12 (4-8) (Previous #10)
This week: 2/20-at Michigan State, 2/24-at Minnesota
Penn State has won back-to-back home games against Michigan State and Illinois, but unfortunately now head on the road for two games this week. Revenge will be on the Spartan's mind on Wednesday and things could get ugly for the Lions in East Lansing.

10.Iowa Hawkeyes 11-15 (4-9) (Previous #7)
This week: 2/19-vs Northwestern, 2/23-at Michigan State
Just when it looked like maybe Iowa was growing into a team that could contend for the 5 or 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament they look ugly in losses at Minnesota and against Michigan at home. Northwestern comes to town on Tuesday before a trip to East Lansing to face the Spartans.

11.Northwestern Wildcats 7-16 (0-12) (Previous #11)
This week: 2/19-at Iowa, 2/23-vs Indiana
The Wildcats can look at three games on their remaining schedule as their last realistic opportunities to pick up a conference win. Tuesday at Iowa, February 26th at Michigan, and March 5th at home against Iowa in their best chance at a Big Ten win.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michigan 60 Iowa 52

(Box Score)

It was a tale of two halves on Thursday night as Michigan took advantage of a cold shooting second half by the Hawkeyes on their way to a 60-52 road victory. It marked only the 3rd win away from home for the Wolverines all season and Iowa’s third straight loss.

The Hawkeyes jumped on Michigan early in what had the looks to be an easy win for Iowa. It looked as though the Wolverines left their offense at home as Iowa jumped out to a 22-7 lead and led by as much as 16 at one point in the first half. The Hawkeyes ended up taking an 11-point lead in the locker room at halftime, leading 27-16.

After the halftime break things started going downhill for the Hawkeyes and downhill in a hurry. Michigan started the 2nd half on a 13-4 run as they picked up the pace on offense and started knocking down their open jumpers. Manny Harris led the charge for the Wolverines scoring all 15 of his points in the second half. Of course, most of those came from the free throw line in garbage time, as Harris ended the game 8-8 from the charity stripe. The Iowa offense lacked showing any type of flow in the second half and went without a field goal for over an eight minute stretch of time. For the game, the Hawkeyes averaged a dismal 0.86 points per possession for the night compared to Michigan’s much more efficient 1.03 points per possession.

Iowa shot just 37% for the game and were 7 of 28 (25%) from the 3-point line. Sharp-shooter Justin Johnson could not find his touch all game long and finished just 3-13 from long range with 9 points. Tony Freeman may have played his worst game of the season, scoring just 8 points and only 3 in the second half. Iowa was led in scoring by Jake Kelly’s 12 points and Cyrus Tate who added 10 points in the loss. They were the only two Hawkeyes to score in double figures. Turnovers also continued to hurt the Hawkeyes. Iowa finished the game with 12 turnovers, which is a high number for a 60 possession game. That equals a turnover rate of 20%, meaning Iowa turned the ball over on 20% of their possessions.

Iowa now has the weekend off to prepare for their next game against Northwestern at home on Tuesday. The Hawkeye’s remaining schedule appears to be quite favorable with a home and away against Northwestern along with a home game versus Illinois and road contests against Michigan State and Penn State. Four of Iowa’s remaining five games look to be winnable, but on the other hand not many would have guessed the Hawks would drop Thursday nights game to Michigan. Certainly at halftime it looked like Iowa may be ready to finish the regular season on a roll, but in the end it’s back to the drawing board for Coach Lickliter and his staff.

Michigan has now won two straight and faces Ohio State at home on Sunday. The Wolverines finish the season with four out of six at home with road games at Minnesota and Penn State. If Michigan can finish strong they could easily find themselves with the 7-seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where are they now? Matt Bullard

Matt Bullard played forward for Iowa from 1988 to 1990. A native of West Des Moines, Bullard transferred back to play for his home state Hawkeyes in 1988 after two seasons at the University of Colorado. Bullard joined an already talented squad his junior year and played alongside seniors Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong and Ed Horton. In 1988-89 Iowa finished 4th in the Big Ten regular season and lost 102-96 in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament to NC State in two overtimes. Bullard averaged 9.1 points per game off the bench in his junior year and 11.4 points per game his senior year of 1989-90. The Hawkeyes finished that season with a record of 12-16, one of only two losing seasons during the tenure of Dr. Tom Davis.

After Matt’s career at Iowa he signed as a non-draftee free agent with the Houston Rockets. Bullard played for eleven seasons in the NBA, nine with the Rockets (1990-94, 1996-2001) and one each with the Atlanta Hawks (1995-96) and Charlotte Hornets (2001-02). Bullard averaged 5.3 points per game as a professional during his career and won a NBA Championship as a member of the Houston Rockets in 1994. He also set a Rocket franchise record in three-point percentage by shooting 44.6% from behind the arc in the 1999-2000 season.

In 2004, Matt competed against other former athletes for an analyst position in the ESPN reality TV show Dream Job. Bullard eventually lost in the finals to Dee Brown. After Dream Job, Bullard continued to pursue a career in broadcasting and landed spots on ESPN Radio and also worked for Houston NBC Affiliate, KPRC.

Bullard currently serves as color commentator for Houston Rocket games on Fox Sports Net. He and Clyde Drexler share the analyst duties on Rocket telecasts alongside play-by-play man Bill Worrell. Recently, Matt Bullard was featured as NBA.com’s Broadcaster of the Week.

Also, for all you Iowa fans, you know you're out there, it'd be worth your while to check out the site Hawkeye Sports News. They do a great job of providing a daily list of links in their Hawkeye Newsstand and were gracious enough to put today's look at former Hawkeye Matt Bullard on their main page. Check it out!